Ah, May…caught somewhere between Easter and the peak tourist season. Warmer and drier than April, but not as hot as the summer.
In other words, a decent time to visit Vienna. Particularly if you enjoy your music, food and drink, for May is a month full of classical and culinary festivals.
Top activities in May 2023
So, aside from the usual museums, galleries and other sights, what does May offer the discerning visitor to Vienna?
Art fairs & exhibitions in May
(Expect something good at the Albertina Modern)
Exhibitions highlights for May so far include:
- The Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien plans the largest solo exhibition to date for Kiki Kogelnik
- Enjoy the final days of the Albertina’s look at printed graphics through the ages from Dürer to Munch and Miró (until May 14th) and their presentation of drawings by Bruegel and his compatriots (until May 24th). The Albertina also has exhibitions for Picasso (!) and Alex Katz planned
- The Albertina Modern also looks at printed graphics, but from post-1945; Warhol, Lichtenstein, etc. And begins a solo exhibition for Yoshitomo Nara (from May 10th)
- The Kunsthistorisches Museum continues its major exhibition of works by Georg Baselitz in dialogue with art that’s a century or three older. And it still has the special coin exhibition (Around the World in 80 Coins)
- We have a lovely exhibition at Lower Belvedere exploring some of the influences (like van Gogh) on Gustav Klimt (until May 29th), as well as their look at the 300-year history of the Belvedere institution
- The Jewish Museum has the thought-provoking 100 Misunderstandings exhibition
- The MAK showcases the work of the Hagenauer metal art workshop (founded during the Wiener Moderne era) and celebrates the art and design of celebration in The Fest (until May 7th). They also have works by Birke Gorm and the intriguing prospect of an exhibition around the theme of folds.
- The Leopold Museum has highlights from the prestigious Würth art collection
- See how nature has inspired design and technology in the fascinating BioInspiration exhibition at the Technisches Museum
- Sticking with nature, the Kunst Haus Wien invites us to explore the materials used in photography and their environmental impacts (until May 29th)
- The Theatermuseum introduces us to the joys of Vienna’s popular music in the widest sense of the expression with the Austropop exhibition
- Several exhibitions continue at the Weltmuseum: the future & science fiction as seen through contemporary art and indigenous voices, modern Japanese calligraphy, a solo exhibition for Maximilian Prüfer, and Extinctions!?
- The Literature Museum acknowledges the greatness that was and is Austrian writer, Ingeborg Bachmann
- The Wien Museum MUSA begins its look (from May 4th) at Vienna in postcards
- For more exhibition choices, keep an eye on the listings as programmes develop.
And a couple of bonus tips for those with a hankering for creativity:
- The Edelstoff design market (May 6th and 7th)
- The Art Austria art fair (May 11th to 14th)
- The Parallel Editions version of Parallel Vienna, which puts the focus on art editions (next dates TBA)
Bring a glass
(The national drink)
Not all the slopes in Austria are for skiing down.
The country has a lot of vineyards (as does Vienna itself). Last time I checked the statistics, Austrians also drink more beer per head than anybody except our thirsty Czech neighbours.
Vienna’s bars and restaurants allow you to taste the local beverages, or you can visit these festivals in May:
- The city-owned Cobenzl winery normally has an open day mid-May (2023 dates TBA), which is free. Though you do have to pay if you want to try some of the (excellent) wines. The winery also sits on a hill with lovely views across the city
- If the idea of wine sounds tempting, then consider the VieVinum, an international wine festival at the Hofburg palace (the next one is slated for May 25th to 27th, 2024).
- Lifting the alcohol content a little, the Vienna Gin Festival is scheduled for May 12th and 13th
Bring a plate
(That famous central European dark bread)
A fine glass of wine or beer goes better with a fine dish of regional food. And, as luck would have it, there are plenty of food festivals in May, too.
- Burgenland is a small province east of Vienna, and the Burgenland Kultinarium festival (planned for May 23rd to 25th) encourages you to learn about the area with the help of large quantities of its wonderful food and drink
- The Genuss Festival in the Stadtpark (2023 dates TBA) showcases the best of Austria’s agricultural and viticultural regions
- The European Street Food festival (May 20th and 21st) rolls into town with trucks and stalls tempting you with a wide diversity of culinary delights from around the globe
- The Wiener Zitrustage or Vienna Citrus Days (May 18th to 21st) add a little fizz and colour to the month in the rather apt location of the Schönbrunn Palace orangery
- The Bauernmarkt unter Palmen occupied the palm house in the central Burggarten park for three days for the first time in May 2022. We shall see if this pop-up market featuring small-scale farmers and food start ups from the Vienna region repeats
Enjoy the music & celebrations
(The Steffl Kirtag at the cathedral)
The 2023 May festivals don’t end there, either.
- The Vienna Blues Spring festival may have bonus performances in May (check the programme)
- The Salam Orient festival (May 5th to 14th) offers a blend of music and other artistic expressions of the Middle East and Arab regions
- The Donaukanaltreiben festival (2023 dates TBA) celebrates urban life with a party-like atmosphere down by the Danube Canal that runs alongside Vienna’s city centre. Think live music, bars, street food, flea markets and similar
- The Konzerthaus begins the 40th International Music Festival on May 29th
- The annual Steffl Kirtag fair outside the main cathedral opens up early this year (May 18th to 29th). Think of it as a hybrid market and funfair, with the emphasis on the former
- The Fest der Freude (May 8th) celebrates the liberation of Vienna and the end of Nazi rule with a free concert on Heldenplatz square next to the Hofburg palace. The Vienna Symphony orchestra performs, with the event also in remembrance of those who suffered at the hands of that occupation
(Heldenplatz – home to the Fest der Freude open-air concert)
Go for a swim (or run)
Vienna’s numerous outdoor public swimming facilities should open up for the summer from early May. These include:
- Family facilities, with shallow pools and family-friendly prices
- Multipurpose facilities, with both indoor and outdoor pools
- Summer facilities with open-air pools. These include large recreational areas along the Alte Donau lake, such as the Gänsehäufel
A running event typically held in May is the Wings for Life World Run with a flagship event in Vienna om May 7th.
Buy some popcorn
(A regular film festival host)
International film festivals normally fill Viennese screens during May. For example:
- The Jewish Film Festival shows local and international movies that explore Jewish life in all its forms and contexts (April 19th to May 3rd)
- The Ethnocineca international documentary film festival focuses on critical evaluation of social, political and cultural structures (May 4th to 11th)
- The Festival du Film Francophone brings the brilliance of French-speaking cinema to Vienna (2023 dates TBA)
Enjoy the flowers
(Part of the city’s tulip displays)
By early May, the spring flower displays planted by the city or national parks authorities are normally in full bloom. Try, for example:
- Schönbrunn Palace – the landscaped gardens in front of the palace are gorgeous. But also take the time to drop into the Kronprinzengarten, a privy garden with geometric shapes made of flower beds and different-coloured gravel
- The Rathauspark – the park surrounding the Rathausplatz square in the centre is usually full of tulips
- The gardens between the two Baroque palaces at Belvedere should have a flower or three by now
- The Volksgarten – a public gardens opposite the Rathausplatz and home to hundreds of different rose varieties
- Hirschstetten – a large (and beautiful) landscaped gardens and park area that actually serves as a plant nursery facility for the city